Thursday, February 6, 2014

Challah Bagels and Memories of Mom - Recipe and Picture

When I was a wee brat, I was introduced to Challah.

Mom brought in a loaf of some shiny, brown, braided baked good and I asked "What is that?"

Mom said, in her own way "It's 'Jeeew-eesh Aig Bread'!  Challah!  You'll love it".

Ok, mom was right.  Even if her pronunciation of the words with stresses on the wrong vowels was a bit wonky.

If you grew up in Cherry Hill, NJ, you could expect to be exposed to a little Jewish Culture, and a lot of Jewish food.  It was always good and filling, and some of it was excellent.

To this day, I have to keep bagels in the freezer and a Sesame Bagel, toasted, with Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Cream Cheese, and of course a generous portion of fresh Nova Lox is a special treat.

The other day I noticed that I was low on bread and low on bagels.  I flashed back to mom and her conversations about this special bread and went looking.  I have a habit of saving off recipes that "you folks" are passing by me either on Facebook or even on physical paper. 

Physically print out a recipe?  Go fig!

I was looking at the pictures of bagels and breads and baked goods the other day and kept coming back to the beautiful shiny braids and knew it was in my future, I'd finally try to make the stuff.

Since I really needed rolls and bagels, making a giant family sized braid that would get a bit stale toward the end.

Now here's a hint - the difference between rolls, bagels, and pretzels is in the preparation.

  • Rolls are left to rise naturally.
  • Pretzels are partially risen yeast dough that is then rolled and boiled in either a lye or baking soda mix.
  • Bagels are partially risen yeast dough that is rolled, re-risen partially, and boiled in water sweetened with honey, sugar, molasses or Barley Malt Syrup.

So that's what I did.  I made Challah Dough, rolled out balls of dough, punched holes in half of them and stretched them to make the bagel shape.   Once I allowed it to rise partially, over an hour, I boiled the bagels in 3 cups of water plus 3 tablespoons of Barley Malt Syrup.

Why Barley Malt Syrup, especially when it is so bloody tough to find?  It was because everywhere I looked suggested that it was the best.  Frankly it tasted like the same molasses I used to make the Gingerbread Cookies that I make from time to time.

So here we go, yet another recipe!

I used the Stand Mixer and a dough hook to make this dough.  I suggest that you do the same, but cut the recipe down to 1/2 since it makes 2 loaves.  My mixer was overtaxed by the long mixing that I had done, and got to smelling quite hot toward the end.


  • 1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
  • 5 large eggs - 4 for dough, 1 for egg wash
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins per challah, if using, plumped in hot water and drained
  • Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling.


Proof your Yeast:
  • In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.
  • Allow the Yeast to begin to bubble and froth.  This should take about 10 to 15 minutes.

Begin to make your Dough:
  • Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. 
  • You can take a shortcut and add these ingredients to the mixer as above and let the mixer do the work.
  • Gradually add flour.
  • When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading.

 Kneading and Rising:
  • Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.  This step can also be done in a stand mixer to save your hands, which is how I did it.
  • Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. 
  • Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. 
  • Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. 
  • Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.


If you are going to use the raisins, now is the time to knead them in.

To make the dough into bagels,
  • Roll the dough into balls and punch your thumb through the center.  
  • Then begin to stretch out the dough until you get the desired shape.  
  • I was able to fit 8 fingers inside the hole in the middle to get these bagels.
  • For "Normal" Sized Bagels I used 80 grams of dough for each, or about 3 ounces.
  • For "Bagel Shop" sized bagels, use up to 5 ounces of dough - it really is up to you!

To make the dough into the traditional braided shapes:
  • Divide the dough into six equal sized pieces.
  • Roll each piece into a "snake" of around 1 foot long.
  • Braid three snakes together and make two loaves.
  • If you don't know how to braid, ask your kid sister.

Rise Time:
  • When I made these into bagels, I allowed 1 hour of rise and got some very fluffy bagels.  You may go with less time for a more chewy bagel.
  • For Challah or any other loaf of bread, you should allow 2 hours of rise to allow the flavor to develop.

Preparation for the oven:
  • Bagels will be boiled in water that has either Barley Malt Syrup, Molasses, Honey, or Sugar in the water.  
  • I used a 2 quart sauce pan with 3 cups water and 3 tablespoons of Barley Malt Syrup. 
  • Boil each bagel for 30 seconds per side.
  • For Challah, you will want to prepare an egg wash with the last egg and brush it all over the top evenly. 

  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Bake bagels and rolls for at least 13 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Bake full sized Challah loaf up to 30 to 40 minutes.
  • These are done when interior temperature reaches 190F with an instant read thermometer.

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